29 September 2019, Quezon City. As shoppers start to make a beeline for popular Christmas goodies such as children’s toys, a public interest advocacy group called on both the government and the industry to ensure that consumers are protected against hazardous goods this festive season.
In observance of the Consumer Welfare Month (CWM) this October, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized the bigger responsibility of the government and the industry in guaranteeing that consumers are protected against abuses and imbalances in the marketplace.
The theme for this year’s CWM, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is “Consumer Protection: A Shared Responsibility.”
“While protecting the consumer interest is indeed a shared responsibility, we believe that the government and the industry have the greater obligation of upholding the legally guaranteed rights of the Filipino consumer considering the powers and resources these two other pillars of consumer protection have,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
According to the “Handbook on ASEAN Consumer Protection Laws and Regulations,” consumer protection pertains “to the measures that aim to protect and promote the well-being and/or financial interests of consumers.”
“Consumer protection measures, including consumer education, mobilization and representation, work to ensure that consumers can make well-informed decisions about their choices and that producers and sellers will fulfill their promises about the products and services they offer,” it further said.
“As the consumer right to safety is one of the frequently ignored rights during the holiday season, we urge the government and the industry to take extra steps to protect consumers against products that are hazardous to health, life or property,” he said.
“As we press concerned agencies and businesses to act, we likewise urge consumers to be on the lookout for shoddy and unsafe goods and to avoid impulsive and reckless purchase that can put their own well-being and safety, and those of the people they care for, at risk,” Dizon said.
As consumers, we have the responsibility, among other things, to be more vigilant and inquisitive about the products and services we select and pay for, as well as our responsibility to be mindful of the environmental impacts of our consumption choices and what we throw away during this joyful season, the group said.
Dizon specifically cautioned consumers against the careless purchase of popular holiday products like children’s toys, gift items, and yuletide decorations that may pose hazards to health, life or property.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, toys not compliant with safety standards may contain substances of concern like cadmium, lead and mercury, brominated flame retardants and phthalates, which can pose chemical hazards, especially to young children.
Some gift items, which are often sold unlabeled, may not be safe for children, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups due to their chemical and physical properties, while decorations like substandard Christmas lights may result in electric shock and may even trigger fires, the group said.
CWM is observed every October according to Proclamation No. 1098 issued in 1997 by then President Fidel Ramos “to set aside a period during which concerted efforts for the assertion of consumer rights may be thoroughly discussed, planned and carried out.”